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New programme of courses to prepare for university

A new range of courses will give 16-19 year olds unprecedented help this summer in preparing for university.

FutureLearn, a company set up by the Open University, is taking the next step in its programme of offering free online courses to give A level pupils a taste of new subjects, or to sharpen their skills in areas like numeracy and critical thinking so they are ready for more advanced study.

After a pilot offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) in five beacon schools last year, FutureLearn is offering at least 15 courses with the help of 12 UK university partners this June-July. Subjects include the University of East Anglia’s Preparing for Uni MOOC, introductions to programming and robotics (with the University of Reading), forensic science (University of Strathclyde), history and archaeology courses (Newcastle and Leicester), and Sheffield Uni Moocs on interviews and application-writing.

The courses are aimed at, but not limited to, Year 12 pupils who have just completed AS levels and who are facing big decisions about where they would like to move on to after finishing school the following year.

The MOOCs are free, take 2-4 hours a week over a period of 3-8 weeks depending on the course, and include continuous quizzing and assessments so students get a sense of how well they are progressing. They also involve online group discussions so the learning is a social activity.

Consumer group Which? found that 26% of students wished they had done more research into their choice of course or university, and these courses provide a brilliant opportunity to do just that.

They also give pupils a way to demonstrate their keenness to institutions they would like to attend. One Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Education with a FutureLearn partner, quoted but not named by FutureLearn, said:

“When it comes to their university application, if a prospective student were to show evidence they had completed a MOOC aligned with their subject of choice, then it would be a tangible demonstration of their interest in that area. It would of course also give them something interesting and relevant to talk about at interview.”

The courses promoted as part of the schools programme will, like any other FutureLearn course, be open to anyone to join.

Posted by Nicholas Manthorpe on Thu, 2 Feb 2017

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Nick was a reporter for the Eastern Daily Press and its sister weekly titles in Norfolk and Waveney, then served as Media Officer for North Norfolk District Council for 13 years. He now works as a writer and PR and media relations consultant. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, an associate member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of East Anglian Writers.

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